For several months leading up to November 2020 – President Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo makes a deal with the Taliban at Doha, has prisoners released (including the current Taliban leader who appears to be about to take control of the country), ends sanctions, and has Trump announce the date.

Desertions within the Afghan military rise as news of the deal with the Trump administration spreads.

The Taliban then begin their takeover campaign, capturing towns and regions one by one. They offer amnesty and money to village governors and military forces. Their takeover campaign proceeds with a minimum of confrontation and without taking losses.

Desertions in the Afghan military continue to increase to disastrous levels.

The Taliban moves from the outskirts to the provincial leadership, surrounding Kabul as the date of US withdrawal approaches.

Summer 2021 – the US begins the announced and agreed-upon withdrawal. The Taliban rolls in. The final collapse may have appeared to happen overnight, but it was in motion for months and took on critical mass after the deal with the Trump administration.

After the initial success in rolling back the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan slowly metastasized into a slow-moving failure that bedeviled the US through the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations. We were there for 20 years. Soldiers were serving in Afghanistan who hadn’t been born yet when we first went in. I don’t think the outcome would be any different if we’d stayed another 20 years.

The United States has now joined a long list of “empires” that attempted to solve the enigma of Afghanistan, spending a massive amount of lives and money in the process, only to get nowhere and have to leave. The only world power that hasn’t yet attempted to “solve” Afghanistan is China. I doubt they’ll be any more successful than the UK, Russia, or the United States.